[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Napster launches UK music service
Napster UK screenshot
Napster is offering 500,000 tracks initially in the UK
Napster has launched its legal music download service in the UK.

Music lovers have the choice of paying a monthly subscription, or a pay per listen service, called Napster Light.

Napster president Brad Duea told BBC News Online that people would have access to the "largest database of music in the UK" for 9.95 a month.

Napster, previously one of the best-known peer-to-peer sites, is the latest to join the rapidly-growing market for legally-downloadable music.

In the announcement on Thursday, Napster also said it was offering a free week-long trial of the full service.

In a deal with Dixons, Napster products, like branded blank CDs, CD wallets and CD labelling kits, as well as the service itself, will be promoted throughout its other stores, Curry's, PC World and The Link.

'P2P feel'

Napster, now owned by US firm Roxio, has also struck a further deal with Samsung to offer a branded portable music player in the UK by the end of the year.

Mr Duea said Napster UK would provide a feel of the original file-sharing service, without breaching copyright.

"The community elements feel like the old Napster, but it is all done securely and reliably."

He added that the service would be flexible, offering a choice of options.

"We offer a subscription which we think is the ideal immersive music experience, but we are also offering a Napster store - Napster Light."

Jukebox software
Subscription: 9.95 per month - unlimited plays on PC
99 pence to burn or transfer to device
9.95 per album
Napster Light: 1.09 per track
Napster Light service: pay per listen
Licence deals with the five biggest labels
Music video catalogue
Ad-free radio customisable stations
Searchable catalogue
Searchable UK charts archive

This means subscribers could choose to pay 9.95 per month to listen to unlimited numbers of tracks from its 500,000-song catalogue, which Napster said would increase to 700,000 in the month after launch.

To be able to burn - or copy - the track onto a CD, or transfer it onto a portable device, would cost an extra 99 pence (88 pence if bought "in bulk") per track or 9.95 for an album.

That is comparable to Apple iTunes' catalogue, although Apple's service is still only available in the US.

Users can also opt for on-demand access, which lets then listen to 30 second clips of tunes, before choosing whether to download the full track for 1.09.

Busy market

In its first quarter sales since its US debut in October 2003, Napster sold more than $6.1m (3.4m) worth of music in the US.

Mr Duea said he expected that to climb to $7m in the next quarter.

Napster faces competition in the UK music download market from Peter Gabriel's OD2 service, which offers downloads through Mycokemusic.com, Virgin, Wanadoo and MSN.

In March, Mycokemusic.com said it had become Europe's biggest legitimate music site, with 10,000 songs sold every week.

In a move which coincided with Napster's announcement, OD2 said it was giving users 20 of free music, effectively halving the average track price from 99 pence to 50 pence.

"There is clear evidence that the market for digital music is taking off in spectacular fashion," said O2D head, Charles Grimsdale.

"Consumers have quickly embraced a wide range of services that are easy to use, highly convenient and which represent great value for money."

Music pioneer

The original Napster song-swapping site had 60 million users, but shut down in 2001 after record companies began legal action over copyright infringements.

Other US services include the US supermarket chain Wal-Mart, and Apple iTunes, which has sold more than 70 million songs in its first year.

Virgin Megastores have also started to offer downloads for sale on their website.

Rival Tiscali, which also offers music downloads, questioned whether Napster would be able to win back the millions of people who once used the peer-to-peer service.

"Napster has a strong brand but with a dodgy history," said Richard Ayers of Tiscali UK.

"The question is will Napster's early illegal UK users despise them for going legit.

"More seriously though, there is room in the market for everyone and competition is good, however unlike its original illegal launch, Napster is now entering a market that is already established here in the UK," he said.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific